As the government searches for a solution that will persuade Anna Hazare to end his hunger strike, it played its ace on Friday. Rahul Gandhi chose Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha to break his silence on the Lokpal Bill - thanking Anna for articulating the sentiments of the poor on the issue of corruption, but also warning that democratic processes could not be undermined.
in 1998, Argentina was a rich and successful country on a tremendous growth path. There was prosperity and less than 3% unemployment. Then a bill similar to Lokpal Bill was introduced called the Public Accountability Bill (RendiciÃ³n PÃºblica de Cuentas) at the behest of some people wanting an extra constitutional control over the government. There were frivolous complaints, officials were chargesheeted, and the Bill became a tool for harassment in the hands of unaccountable persons. The result was that officials became scared to take decisions, projects were held up and the government lost credibility. The govt. handed major departments to pvt sector which, in the absence of any check, started minting money at the cost of public good. The economy of Argentina collapsed, exports stopped, there was runaway inflation, and the country plunged into poverty with 50% unemployment. So if u want the economic progress of India to continue and prevent a collapse in India, oppose the Lokpal Bill. Long live democracy, long live India.
His words for most part echoed the PM's when he said that while he was all for an effective Lokpal, it was just one element in the battle against corruption. "I doubt that just a Lokpal law will tackle corruption...a set of effective laws is desired," Mr Gandhi said. A strong political will, he said, was essential to tackle corruption.
He also proposed what he later said was a game-changing idea. To make the Lokpal an independent body. "Let us fortify the Lokpal Bill by making it a constitutional body like Election Commission", Mr Gandhi said. The speech was short, punctuated by noisy disruptions from the Opposition benches, but the message was clear and it set the tone for how the government would continue to deal with the Anna challenge - "We must not weaken the democratic process which is lengthy and elaborate, but is inclusive and fair," Mr Gandhi said.
A process that was "divorced from democracy sets a dangerous precedent," Mr Gandhi said, pointing out that while today it was about corruption, an important issue, "tomorrow you may have protests for something less universally accepted."
Outside Parliament, after his speech, Rahul countered criticism on his silence so far by saying, "I like to think before I speak." Mr Gandhi's public silence on the Lokpal issue had been questioned both by the Opposition parties and civil activists, but his hand in the government tackling of the situation has been obvious.
The Congress General Secretary - who is part of a four-member committee appointed by Sonia Gandhi to look into party's affairs while she is away recuperating from surgery in the US - met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the latter's 7 Race Course Residence this morning. He has been meeting Dr Singh regularly and attending core group discussions on the crisis.
Before Anna Hazare's protest began, Rahul Gandhi had given a clear diktat to his party that it must refrain from making personal attacks on the Gandhian activist and he stepped in last week when Anna Hazare was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail, a move that provoked huge public outcry. At Mr Gandhi's intervention, sources said, Mr Hazare was offered release within hours, though he chose not to accept it and stayed in jail for the next two days.
Yesterday, after a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Mr Gandhi had expressed concern that the crisis continued and that Mr Hazare had not yet ended his fast. The Rahul Gandhi influence has also been evident in a new emphasis on the role of younger leaders - Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit has been at the fore-front of government negotiations with Team Anna. Others like Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and Jitin Prasad were part of the Government's discussions last evening.
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